The public persona dilemma

Am I the only one wondering what to do about all the “Build a writer platform!” “Don’t waste your writing time!” “Tweet, tweet, tweet!” “Get off social media and write!” noise constantly raging in my head?

Every time I dive into the online pool, it’s fun and noisy and addictive, and tiring as hell, and I end up swearing to myself I won’t let it eat up my precious writing time ever again. Yet every time I take a break (for whatever reason), I feel as though I’m being left behind like a mangy puppy in the wake of a colorful caravan. Getting back up and running is hard as hell. I’m dizzy just trying to check on all the blogs I haven’t read, let alone wake up the Kraaken Tweeter.

And then there are all my favorite authors whose shiny auras seem to sparkle like mirages in the distance. They don’t blog often, don’t tweet all the time, don’t try to “build a following”. What they do is write good books. (And yeah, I know I can’t afford to rely solely on that since I’m neither a genius nor famous yet, shut up.)

Some of the more talkative ones have blogs about new technological advances, political issues, social conundrums and publishing matters, and they glow with professionalism and strong opinions. Can I do the same? Mneah. I can’t blog about science or politics, or fight on the front of the sexism-in-fiction war. Not that I don’t care about any of that, far from it, I just don’t feel I can contribute anything worth your time and mine.

Everything scientific I come in contact with is immediately warped into science-fiction in my mind; politics leaves me cold; and social prejudices are very distant from my actual, real life. I’m not a victim of sexism, don’t witness any bullying where I live, and don’t have to deal with ignorant bigots on a daily basis, so I don’t have reason to get my panties in a twist. However, I think those who actively fight for gender equality in the fiction writing industry, and against ignorance and prejudices, are realย heroes, but I’m not one of them. Don’t think so. Not yet. I don’t feel it’s right for me to get all riled up about things I have no first-hand experience in. I can support those who do, instead, and I do that wholeheartedly.

And what about fiction writing as the eternal go-to topic for writer/bloggers? I think it’s somehow the only viable topic for a yet-unpublished writer like moi. Fellow writers are awesome, and I love you guys for all the support and camaraderie you’re offering. And I could talk about writing all my life and not get bored, so there’s that.ย But is it enough? What does blogging about writing do in terms of creating this online writer persona that’s apparently still required to persuade gatekeepers and readers you’re worthy?

And what to do about being rusty?

Ease comes with practice.

And oh, how I hate that truth. ๐Ÿ˜€

At least I’m ripe enough not to let those SEO gurus and platform maniacs convince me I have to sell my soul and buy premium plugins and hoards of followers to even count. I’m not interested in numbers. I’m interested in quality interaction, and the ROI that only practicing my voice can bring — a smooth, recognizable, personal style. (I’d wish…)

How do you guys deal with this constant demand to have an honorable, worth-while writer platform?

Do you blog (how often)? Do you tweet (how on Earth do you manage to evade the spamvalanche?) Do you use any other social media tool?

What is it that truly gets you “out there”? Your public persona, or your writing?

20 Replies to “The public persona dilemma”

  1. Vero, I blog once a week. I have a twitter account I barely use. And I dip into Facebook and other blogs either as a reward for a sustained length of writing, or as (what I see) positive distraction, in that I usually return to a problem sentence/paragraph refreshed and knowing exactly how to finish it. But the merchandising bit is putting the cart before the horse. My view is that little and often over the long term you build up a community of friendly/likeminded souls (as you have done) so that when the book finally arrives the platform is already more than half built. That’s the theory at least ๐Ÿ™‚

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    1. I agree with you Mike, and yes, that’s been my opinion too. Mostly. It’s just that the content of that platform is a recurring issue, as in, what can an unpublished writer possibly share with the world (and thus what kind of people do they attract) before they even have a book to their name? I think on that matter I’m going to stick to writing info mostly, and things that occupy my thoughts enough to warrant venting. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  2. I’m an adamant (defiantly obtuse?) short story writer, and I don’t blog that often. Given my preferred writing medium, my blog mainly exists for the handful of people who want to read my latest story, which I always link.

    I’ve been told that I need to engage more on the social media platforms, which I think is true. I’ve also been told that I need to create a FB author page, but given that I’m a short story writer, I’m not convinced about that yet.

    I’ve found that I get decent engagement on Facebook, and recently, people have found me on Twitter, which was a bit surprising. Twitter is where I’m most vocal; I live tweet certain tv shows, and drop in and out of conversations when it suits me. I find that engagement most enjoyable. and it’s gotten me the most genuine interaction.

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    1. Twitter sure seems like the best social media place for writers. There’s no limits to engagement with others, whereas Facebook severely limits visibility of one’s posts, not to mention you have to have mutual friendships, where Twitter follower-ship can be one-sided. Twitter also has that live chat feel which I love (I’m an ooold mIRC fan). The downside is that it’s pretty hard to get into it (and return to it after a longer time off).

      Being a short story writer I can totally see why you don’t get as much out of establishing a “serious platform” (cue the sarcasm in my virtual voice). As long as it gives you something back, I suppose it’s worth the time invested. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Good luck with your stories, btw.

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  3. I make my blog the center piece of my online stuff, so other things that I do (facebook, twitter, goodreads) are really just there to support the blog. I wouldn’t be able to handle everything, otherwise. Not that I really do, but I get much closer this way.

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    1. Hm… funny that even though I know you’re “right”, I still can’t seem to see Facebook and Goodreads as a means to drive traffic to my blog. They serve different purposes to me, Facebook’s for goofing around with friends and Goodreads is for… goofing around with other friends, and managing what I read. Twitter’s the go-to tool for driving traffic IMO. BUT – indeed, the blog takes center stage. Just that if you’re gone from blogging for a while, that feeling is rather gone.

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  4. “Ease comes with practice.” Seriously? I’ve been “practicing” for a while now, and let me tell you…it still ain’t easy.
    In 2010 Amazon opened up the floodgates for authors to publish and distribute their books. Everyone started writing and then realized unless someone knew about it, their precious child would huddle in a dark closet.
    Enter social media. There was a frenzy to tweet, post on Facebook, then Pinterest, blog, set up a website, Goodreads, librarything…I could go on, but it has become overwhelming. Who has time to write anymore? Everyone is tearing out their hair because there’s no time to write, or read. I’m reading fewer books now that I’m writing.
    I’m still trying to figure it out and, like you, I feel the parade is pulling away in the distance…and I’m not juggling a newborn to boot.
    I do what I can, and right now I’m behind in my weekly blog because I don’t know what to say. (yeah, stunning that comment…who would have thought?)
    I’m in the edit trap. Time dribbles away while I try to polish the writing. It’s like unsnarling a Gordian Knot. I keep finding odd punctuation, repeated words–you know. Never perfect.
    For what it’s worth…I think it’s about balance, and doing what you can, and what you love best.
    There’s still plenty of time for you to “build your platform.”
    And I love hearing from you through your blog.
    What wins out over everything is persistence.

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    1. “What wins out over everything is persistence.” — You totally nailed it with that, Sheron. I do hope it gets easier in time, though… at least I’ve gotten faster at writing blog posts, since I don’t worry about their structure and perfection as much as I did when I started out. I don’t edit them as much either.

      Speaking of editing… I’m there too. I’m potentially facing some critical decisions regarding my MS before I start to really prune it. I’m gonna blog about that soon. And then… I’ll just see what I get preoccupied with and go form there. Coming up with ideas for blog posts is an issue for me only if I try to do it on the fly. With some premeditation, I can make lists of things I’d like to talk about eventually, and then when I get stuck, I pick something from that list.

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  5. There was once a man who made a detailed study of the lives of 100 billionaires and discovered one thing in common: they all had swimming pools in their back gardens. So he promptly took out a loan, built himself a swimming pool and waited for the money to come.
    There IS a cause and effect link between successful authors and successful author platforms, but not in the direction many would have us believe ๐Ÿ™‚
    – Unless of course your books are about how to be a successful author…

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    1. Great analogy, Simon. I completely agree.

      And YES – those authors who write & blog about writing and blogging sure have a different take on platform building. Ironically, they are the ones who advocate building the platform first and having an active presence on all social media channels (because–duh!–it’s how they do it and it serves them well), but their audience are usually fiction writers, who then waste hundreds of hours trying to emulate the success of their idol forgetting they are entirely different animals.

      The best example coming to mind here is Kristen Lamb, whose advice on platform building I find generally useful, but who doesn’t thrive from writing fiction — and thus cannot lead by example — but from *gasp* selling books and courses on platform building for writers. Hehe.

      Thanks for the comment, btw. Got my gears spinning. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  6. Veronica,
    As a published author, the public expects a presence online. But a published author cannot expect anything from the online presence. Being online, whether you tweet, FB, or YouTube, can become a chore or another avenue to engage with readers. At the best, it can deepen and broaden your readership and lead to other opportunities. At the worst, it can suck you into a black hole of despair, taking your time without any tangible reward. The key is create content as painstakingly as you do your other projects and respond honestly and quickly to feedback. The rest could be explained by an outlier.

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    1. Actually, I think as long as putting out content on your blog and interacting with others on social media doesn’t suck you into that “black hole of despair”, your online presence can actually be a good barometer for your compatibility with the world (or audience). If nobody’s interested in what you have to say, regardless how much you try, then you at least know you need to work on your presentation, and that probably extends to your fiction. And the other way around, of course; an engaging online presence can show you your own unsuspected strengths.

      Thanks for your comment, Angela. Good luck with your projects! ๐Ÿ™‚

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  7. Augh, I could have written this post (maybe not as well) but you echoed my thoughts and frustrations with it all so well.

    When I was working full time directing a learning center at the college, I had to run programs, budgets and planning for 4-5 areas, plus manage the office personnel and see students. I never had the luxury of a single-minded focus (just write!), I had to realize that being successful and effective in my job meant learning how to set priorities and keep up with it all. If I think of this writing stuff as a job, then I realize it’s not that much different. Spend a little time on the “platform” stuff, write, do a little reading. It helps me feel less frustrated, I guess and forces me to look at time management as part of my job as a writer.

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    1. Time management. *shudders* Being a writer nowadays is utterly impossible without that, I agree.

      It’s juggling writing and social media AND a full-time job and a baby that’s making my head spin. But I’m slowly getting the hang of it… And I’m gonna do it just like you, use the experience I have at multitasking and apply it on social media.

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  8. I post on my blog about once per week, not counting the Friday Links column (which doesn’t really take that much time). My topics are mostly all about writing, which is good for meeting other writers, but not so good for building a platform. Maybe I’ll start blogging more about castles when I get closer to launching my book.

    Since I’m still trying to finish my first book, I don’t spend much time on Facebook or Twitter, especially since I can’t access them from work. One day I hope to do better, but we’ll see.

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    1. Oh, when you’re drafting — stay away from the internet! Haha. But no, really, it’s a freakin multiheaded beast that’ll drain your persistence right out of you.

      Good luck finishing your novel, Ken. Keep at it! Woot-woot!

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  9. Argh. I shouldn’t even be posting a response here given how heartily I fail at each and every form of social media. Despite best intentions, I’ll dive in, tweet and blog for a few months, poke around FB in a desultory sort of way, and then one day, KABOOM! I can’t cope with it any more, so I fade away into the shadows, maybe lurking, most likely not, until the urge to connect hits once again.

    I agree with you about Facebook being primarily a place to noodle around with friends rather than a strong author platform. Perhaps once a writer is “discovered” FB becomes a viable platform, but I don’t see it as being a very effective tool until then.

    As for blog content, well, this is something I’ve struggled with too. There are so many blogs about writing, I ask myself if I really have anything new to offer. Probably not. That doesn’t stop me from blogging occasionally about writing. But I also blog about other things (when I’m blogging at all): links to cool and interesting things; opinions on this and that, random silliness, and so on. Is this the best way to build a brand/platform? Almost definitely not. I’m tired of worrying about it, though. Pffft, I say. Pffft to the whole angsty angstorama.

    And I love your posts, whatever you happen to be talking about.

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  10. I have a feeling I’ve been talking about this topic before. I also believe it was on your blog. ๐Ÿ˜€

    As an introvert I’m not exactly starving much for human interaction and prefer having a safe, soft wall between flesh masses and moi, even on the internetz. I’m not the talkative type and as much as I am seen discussing something on social networks is as much as I am talkative in real life: a few comments and I’m exhausted! ๐Ÿ™‚

    I blog rarely, I tweet stuff I find fascinating (most of that is science-related), I keep my tiny author page on FB (and get occasional likes from total strangers), I have Goodreads author presence, I have a dozen loyal readers (who are not writers!). I’m also trying out Wattpad showcase instead of offering free book downloads.

    I left the worldbuilding/writing group on Facebook that I had created because now there are too many humans who want attention.

    This is my platform. Do I need more foundation for it? Not really. It’s all there.
    Slow and steady is the way. The rest is writing books.

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